A Message from Corey Widmer
In his book, The Prodigal God, Tim Keller tells the following story:
"Once upon a time there was a gardener who grew an enormous carrot. This man loved his king, So he took it to his king and said, “My lord, this is the greatest carrot I’ve ever grown or ever will grow. Therefore I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” The king was touched and discerned the man’s heart, that he wanted nothing in return, so as he turned to go the king said, “Wait! You are clearly a good steward of the earth. I own a plot of land right next to yours. I want to give it to you freely as a gift so you can garden it all.” And the gardener was amazed and delighted and went home rejoicing.
But there was a nobleman at the king’s court who overheard all this. And he said, “My! If that is what you get for a carrot – what if you gave the king something better?” So the next day the nobleman came before the king and he was leading a handsome black stallion. He bowed low and said, “My lord, I breed horses and this is the greatest horse I’ve ever bred or ever will. Therefore I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” But the king discerned his heart and said thank you, and took the horse and merely dismissed him. The nobleman was perplexed. So the king said, “Let me explain. The gardener’s gift was a gift of love, from the heart. But you’re just trying to make a profit. That gardener was giving me the carrot, but you were giving yourself the horse."
I love this story because it captures the heart of what Christian generosity is all about. So often we give our money and resources to others while in reality we are giving to ourselves, like the nobleman. We give to assuage guilt, we give to make ourselves feel like a better person, we give so others will think more highly of us, we give out of a vague sense of obligation, hoping that somehow God will think better of us. But all of these motivations are at core self-centered. We are giving only to get.
The gardener exhibits what true gospel centered giving is all about. Giving that is motivated by Jesus is fueled by a willing heart- a heart that is so full of gratitude for God’s grace and affection for God’s character, that the giver offers the gift simply for the sake of love.
As we prepare for faith commitment Sunday, the Stewardship team has chosen the phrase “Willing Hearts” as the theme for this year. “Willing hearts” comes from the book of Exodus. In Exodus 35:20-29, it is stated five times that the people gave out of “willing hearts” for the building of God’s tabernacle. In Exodus 25:2, God says “You are to receive the offering from everyone whose heart moves them to give.” In Exodus 36:4-7, Moses must halt the giving because so much excess is being supplied! These people are like the gardener.
As we head into 2016, we must be thoughtful, prayerful and wise about how we are stewarding God’s precious resources. We are planning our budget carefully, and we will all be in this together as we anticipate how God is calling us to participate in his mission together. But above all, my prayer for our community is that God will give us hearts like the gardener- willing hearts- so that our giving flows out of love and gratitude for all that God has given to us.
Grace and peace of our Savior+
God invited those with willing hearts to build his tabernacle, and now we are called to build his Kingdom here on earth. Please be in prayer for the Lord leading about how you will support Third's ministry in 2016. Our prayer is that each gift - no matter the size - will sustain and increase Third's mission and ministry.